Many Navy servicemen and women have developed a serious type of cancer called mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure on ships. The U.S. Navy required the use of asbestos in many of its ships until the late 1960s despite knowing that the toxic mineral was linked to lung cancer as early as the 1920s. The Navy also failed to warn veterans of the dangerousness of asbestos during the decades in which Navy scientists were conducting tests to see just how serious asbestos exposure was.
Navy veterans have filed many mesothelioma lawsuits against the companies that manufactured and delivered asbestos-laced products to U.S. Navy ships. One recent California appeals court decision involves a veteran who was awarded $10 million in noneconomic damages in a lawsuit against a company that distributed toxic asbestos-laced insulation.
The Navy veteran worked on the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk for four years in the early to mid 1960s and was exposed to asbestos during this time. The veteran established that a company affiliated with Lone Star Industries Inc. delivered an asbestos-containing insulation product to the USS Kitty Hawk.
The product was called Insulag and was a dry powder delivered in 50-pound bags by the Lone Star affiliate twice weekly during a nine-month ship overhaul at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.
Insulag was mixed in the ship's engine room. Workers would pour the asbestos-laden powder into water and apply it to pumps, valves and lines in the ships. The Navy veteran was present when the product was mixed and said that Insulag often covered his clothing, hair and nose.
The fact that the asbestos-containing powder got on the veteran's body makes it very likely that the asbestos exposure caused his mesothelioma. Once ingested, asbestos fibers can get caught in the lining of the heart, lungs and stomach and eventually lead to the development of mesothelioma.
The veteran's case went to a jury trial and the jury heard testimony about his painful fight with mesothelioma and his arduous treatment regimen.
He has lost 35 pounds since he began his mesothelioma treatment and has developed numbness in his limbs as well as trouble maintaining his balance. Radiation treatments also leave the veteran's chest and esophagus so inflamed that it is hard for him to swallow. Additionally, the veteran's chemotherapy causes him to feel nauseous for days and leaves him unable to work or engage in recreational activities.
A jury awarded the veteran $506,000 in economic damages and $10 million in noneconomic damages and awarded $1.5 million to the veteran's wife for loss of consortium, with 19 percent of the fault allocated to Lone Star.
Lone Star appealed the judgment as excessive, but a reviewing court disagreed, citing evidence of jury verdicts in mesothelioma cases ranging from $9 million to $25 million.